Thursday, December 30, 2010

Black-capped Chickadees

A Black-capped Chickadee and a Carolina Chickadee are almost identical except for their call. The close-up of these birds pictured denote they are Black-capped with a little more of a white patch on their wing. The Carolina Chickadee has a little less of the cinnamon buff color on their sides. The Chickadee is one of the most friendly bird that shows up at the feeders. Many times they are just perching above your head waiting for the feeder to be filled. The best time to get these birds to eat out of your hand is in the winter months early in the morning, because in the spring and summer they are busy with raising their young and eating insects. Before you put seeds in the feeder hold an outstretched hand of seeds. Once they become accustomed to your presence they will snatch a seed from your hand. On cold nights they have the ability to lower their body temperature which this helps them to survive. They are good scavengers and clever about hiding their food in many places to retrieve later.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Tufted Titmouse

These pictures don't even capture this cute cheerful clown like bird. They will not sit still long enough to get a good picture. Especially in the Spring when you are outside longer you can hear their lively sound coming from a distance, it sounds like "peter-peter-peter." They are acrobatic and fast at the feeders, snatching a seed and then taking off. Also known for hiding some food in tree bark and burying some in the ground. Like the Chickadee a Titmouse can be hand-fed and are always curious about everything around them. They flock to the feeders along with the chickadees, nuthatches and woodpeckers. Which is so true, because at one tree in my yard, those are the same birds there all day. In the summer the Titmice will eat insects, snails and spiders, then in the winter months, they eat fruits, seeds and nuts. A cavity nester, who sometimes will nest in a box, they fill their nests with hair, feathers, fur and even snakeskin. They are known to collect hair from living animals. SO TRUE......this past spring, I witnessed one coming all day and landing on Dexter the Donkey, and pulling out his hair. The only reason I didn't get a good picture was because I didn't know how to use my new camera! So this coming spring I will be hanging out with the donkey to try and get a good shot. They also mate for life.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas gifts for Myself and the Birds

My dear daughter purchased these two bird houses for my Christmas gift. These are made out of recycled milk jugs and bottles. The small one took 30 milk jugs to make. I now have two new bluebird houses to get put up and the smaller one will be used by wrens or chickadees. In my shed are bird house gourds that I hope dry correctly and survive this terrible winter. If they don't I will just have to plant more. I vow no House Sparrows will occupy these houses.

White-breasted Nuthatch

Nuthatches always creep down the tree trunks head first, this allows them to search the bark crevices for insects overlooked by birds that climb up head first. They keep the trees healthy by eating beetles, caterpillars, wood borers and other damaging insects. The Nuthatch nest in natural cavities or abandoned woodpecker holes. They may also breed in bird boxes, but most often choose a tree hole. So it is so important to allow dead trees and branches to remain for them and others to have the natural cavities. Their populations are increasing which may be due to backyard bird feeders. They like the sunflower seeds, suet and cracked corn. 

The other day one of these birds was hunched down in the feeder, not moving at all. I was so concerned at first, then it dawned on me what was going on. A hawk had to be perched nearby. I ran outside and on the side of the house the hawk was up in the large tree. By feeding the birds at feeders they attract the hawks and it is advised to stop feeding the birds for a few days so hawks will give up and look elsewhere. With the freezing weather we are having, I try to feed them early in the morning and once again before night, hoping they don't hang around all day with the hawk near.

The branches were in the way and it made the pictures a little blurry.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Red-bellied Woodpecker

There is only a slight red patch on the belly of these woodpeckers in which they are named. This is a male pictured who can be identified by the red forehead cap. The female has just a splash of red on her head. I can hear this fellow coming across the field before I see him. He arrives daily to check out the suet feeders and sometimes hangs around in the large maple trees here. The Red-bellied will tap loudly on metal gutters, aluminum roofs and even vehicles to attract a mate. The sad part is the European Starlings will evict these and other woodpeckers from their nests. This is alarming because of hundreds of Starlings that show up here. This past summer there was a female with him, but I have only seen this one showing up.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Junco with broken leg

This little fellow has been showing up daily and I put some seed on the patio ledge for him. But I did see him sitting in the feeder today with all of the other birds. I feel he would get too banged up there, so this is why I hope he will stay on the patio and eat where it should be safer for him.

Poor Cold Birds

Today was so cold with blowing snow that I had to shovel around the feeder by 7 a.m. then refill the feeders all day long. The birds were non-stop from sunrise to sunset eating, they have to build up some fat during the day in order to survive the bitter cold nights.

This Dove looks like an Angel has landed.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Eastern Towhee

The Eastern Towhee tends to be solitary and often feed on the ground, scratching noisily in the dry leaves. Their habitat are woodland edges, pastures and brushy backyards. Their populations appear to be declining with the loss of the woodland edges due to development and frequent Cowbird parasitism.....which means...
Cowbirds are known as a "brood parasite." They lay their eggs in other birds nests, commonly the Eastern Towhee, sometimes tossing resident eggs out to make room for their eggs. Other birds do not know they have an alien egg and they raise the young nestling as their own. A group of Towhees are known as a "tangle" and a "teapot" of towhees. It is not the picture, their eyes are a red/brown. This lone bird did visit the feeder and I found him later in the day in this snag of a tree. I have only seen one so far, hopefully a few more will visit.

American Tree Sparrow

Despite their name, they build their nests on the ground.

The Tree Sparrow is very similar to the Chipping Sparrow. The difference being the rusty crown and eyestripe on the Tree Sparrow and the gray breast has a dark spot in the middle. They nest in the summer in the far north of Canada and winter in northern United States. A group of Tree Sparrows are known as a "grove" of sparrows.

Flying Finches

Since the Blue Jays were not around the finches were finally able to eat at the feeder. The male House Finch is the rosy red ones and the females are the brownish striped. A few Goldfinches are in the pictures also, with a Tufted Titmouse flying in. They have a wonderful twittering song and especially love the thistle and sunflower seeds. Originally from Mexico, the House Finch resembles the Purple Finch. The coloring of the Purple Finch is more of a raspberry red and the female is also the brownish striped.
 A Tufted Titmouse coming in.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Song Sparrow

Checking all of the bird pictures, I can only guess I am correct that this is a Song Sparrow. I didn't realize I had gotten its picture flying off the branch. As I am hiding at the window in the kitchen wishing I had a good blind set up outside to capture better shots.

Bully Birds

Blue Jays are always considered the big bullies at the feeders. They fly in fast and their vocalizations intimidate and scare other birds. They have a variety of sounds and can mimic a hawk call. Known for their tight family bonds, they are very aggressive and territorial in their nesting and feeding areas, and will chase off cats, dogs and even humans. At the feeders they will stuff the seeds in a throat pouch to cache elsewhere. Of course some of the seeds and nuts are never recovered and these will eventually grow into new trees and plants. It has been stated that their fondness of acorns is credited with helping spread oak trees after the last glacial period. Intelligent birds who will watch a person planting seeds and afterwards will go and dig up and eat the seeds. Most likely they are partly to blame for all of the sunflower seeds I had planted, and then had to replant them all this past Spring. While they are all at the feeder stuffing themselves, the other poor birds are perched by waiting for their turn. Blue Jays hold the nut with their feet and crack it open with its bill. A female and male are identical in markings with the female a little smaller, this makes them hard to identify.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Fall Cleanup

This is my son Matthew who just whines when it comes time to help with the leaves. He only has to dump them in the garden. My husband used a commercial leaf blower this year that did the job fast, then I used my shredder and made beautiful mulch to put around my trees and shrubs. Matthew states every year that he wants to chop all the trees down. This past Spring I planted 7 more maple trees, he most likely will be moving far away before those trees mature.

Berries for Birds

A garden full of berries are irresistible to birds.Choosing the correct berry producing shrubs and trees are like having a "living bird feeder." The birds that normally are insect eaters will switch their diet in the winter to eat berries. Some of the common insect eating birds such as robins, bluebirds, waxwings, chickadees, etc., will not find those insects in the harsh winters, so the berries will help them survive those cold months.

Issai Beautyberry
The Beautyberry is a graceful deciduous shrub that produces pink flowers in the Spring, followed by beautiful purple berries in late Summer.


The red berries of the Holly are a favorite of the bluebirds. You will need to plant a male holly to pollinize the female plants. I purchased 3 female and planted a male about 20 feet from them.

Autumn Jazz Arrowwood Viburnum

I was very fortunate to purchase 5 Arrowwood Viburnum at clearance this Fall. They look a little scraggly now with losing their leaves, they were very healthy looking when I bought them for only $5 a piece. The Viburnums provide fruit, flowers, cover, and beautiful fall colors. Some will grow 10-12 feet high and also as wide. The ones I have on order for the birds are: American Cranberry High Bush, Blue Muffin, and Nannyberry. They produce an abundant amount of fruit.

Centurion Crabapple

Another of my wonderful sale finds were these crabapples at $4 a piece this Fall. I was thrilled they were healthy and so cheap. I planted 3 other crabapples "Prairiefire," at only a small discounted price this Fall, but I was still happy to get them  and hopefully they survive the winter.

Ilex Verticillata "Black Alder"
These winterberries are a native holly. You also need a male to pollenize the females. The berry-laden plants are prized by craft enthusiasts for floral arrangements, wreaths, etc. But they are more important for their berries which stay on into late winter for food. 40 known bird species, small mammals and even deer are known to eat this fruit. The dense branches will also provide shelter. These can grow 10 feet high, a showstopper in winter against the white snow with their bright red berries.